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Monday, January 15, 2018

Copernicanism- 1993 LCMS (Patrick Ferry- 25 years ago); Part 1

Rev. Dr. Patrick T. Ferry
Concordia Univ.–Wisconsin
[2018-01-16: Comments have come in below with pertinent added documentation]
      At the risk of over covering the issue of Copernicanism, I am addressing it once more.  This was occasioned by recently coming across an essay in Concordia Theological Quarterly, October 1993, that may be the greatest attempt by any teacher in the LC-MS to put the matter of "Copernicanism" to rest. This is the ONLY essay in CTS-FW Media under the labels "Astronomy-History" and "Copernicus, Nicolas, 1473-1543". The author was unfamiliar to me, but a little research quickly turned up that Patrick T. Ferry is now Rev. Dr. Patrick T. Ferry, President of Concordia University–Wisconsin since 1997. So Dr. Ferry can be considered a theological scholar for today, with a M.Div. from CTS-FW and a PhD in European History.
      One of the major benefits of using the following reproduction of Dr. Ferry's extensive essay is the addition of reciprocal hyperlinks to all footnotes for effortless navigation. The reader will notice that I have inserted many of my own comments in red text.  This is only because Ferry is quite a master scholar for today.  He knows many facts about the Reformation, he can translate from the old theological languages, he has an understanding of modern philosophy, he has read much from modern theology, etc.  But because he sets out essentially with the notion that Copernicanism is objective truth (since "science" has "proved" it so), so he must, as a "Lutheran scholar", try to accommodate "Wittenberg" with today's "Science".  And so, because this notion flies directly in the face of Holy Scripture, Ferry must be forcefully refuted.
      There is additional material covered by Dr. Ferry that was not covered in my blog series for "Josh". An example is Melanchthon's own writings specific to "Copernicanism", p. 279.  This was a case where Ferry's scholarly ability was actually helpful, even if he immediately works to accommodate Melanchthon's own testimony, as he does Luther's.
      It took me perhaps 20+ years to totally forget about this essay.  How happy I am to have completely refuted it even without directly addressing it in my Copernicanism blog series.  And so now, with a firmer faith and the immense help of Internet resources (Google Books, Google Translate, etc.) I can return to Ferry's essay in full confidence of not only the truth of Holy Scripture, but also in the knowledge that the true Evangelical Lutheran Church always held to the a priori truth of the Bible, even where the Bible clearly taught natural science incidentally.
[2018-01-30: added links to pages of B.A. Gerrish essay “Reformation and the Rise of Science” in footnotes; 2018-01-29: added links to pages of Werner Elert’s The Structure of Lutheranism book noted in footnotes, 3 places]

A direct link to the above Google document is available here. Uncommented version here.
[2018-01-29: added links to pages of Werner Elert’s The Structure of Lutheranism book noted in footnotes, 3 places]

      I was amazed that I had not discovered this essay in my year-long research of this topic.  This is the only essay that I could find that addressed this "hot button" topic in any meaningful way in the LC-MS. I was also amazed that my blog series not only answered most of Ferry’s points, but went beyond it on the real issue of what is objective truth, something that Ferry only implies. This essay clearly intends that the reader consider Copernicanism or "heliocentrism" to be objective truth. Now Dr. Ferry may admit that he is in agreement with me that the Lutheran Church allowed theoretical science that was objectively impossible.  But then again, he is in today’s Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, a synod that has for many decades, without interruption by a so-called Walkout in 1974spearheaded the effort to accommodate the Bible to “Science” on this issue of Copernicanism.
      My comments grew to be too much for one blog post, so I am splitting it up into 2-parts.  In the next Part 2, I comment further on Dr. Ferry, but also on someone I discovered who was very close to him, but one who is actually an antidote to his essay.

("Josh" -- are you still listening?)

[2018-01-16: Comments have come in below with pertinent added documentation]

● ● ● ● ● ●    [2018-03-26: Added full text of above document into a "Read more »" section below]  ● ● ● ● ●

Volume 57: Number 4                   OCTOBER 1993
The Guiding Lights of the University of Wittenberg and the Emergence of Copernican Astronomy
Patrick T. Ferry
Under the direction of its most celebrated faculty members, Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon, the University of Wittenberg assumed a position of leadership in the sixteenth-century reformation of the church. The role of the academic community in the process of reform was a pivotal one, and from its inception the Reformation in Germany was a university movement.1 [No, it was a religious movement.  This statement implies one must be educated to follow the Reformation.  Rather no one understands the Reformation apart from faith.] More than any other institution, the University of Wittenberg provided the impetus and became the instrument through which some of the most profound changes in ecclesiastical history were engineered. The Reformation, however, was not the only movement of historic significance and far-reaching implications to gain momentum during the first half of the sixteenth century. Advances in science, and chiefly the cosmological achievements of Copernicus, gradually began to stir the geostatic world into motion. While many of the tenets of Copernicus were slow to receive recognition, his astronomical assertions represented a major shift away from the prevailing Aristotelian and Ptolemaic approaches to astronomy. The thoughts of Copernicus were not unknown to the leaders at the University of Wittenberg. Contrary to the assumption that Luther and Melanchthon obstructed the spread ofCopernicanism [not the Copernican Theory?], each played a role in its eventual dissemination.
Before the publication of his monumental De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium Libri Sex Copernicus and his ideas were topics of some discussion in Wittenberg. Theology continued to be the focus of most attention, but science in general, and astronomy more than any other scientific endeavor, proved to be of great intellectual interest. As in theology, so also in astronomy, the University of Wittenberg established interpretive trends that influenced the perspective of most Protestant universities throughout Germany. At the very least the University of Wittenberg did not attempt to stand in the way of emerging Copernicanism. [This is a falsely worded statement. Lutheran theologians never allowed "Copernicanism" but only the Copernican Theory.] In fact, the evidence indicates that Wittenberg helped create an atmosphere in which Copernican views could be addressed and assimilated.
The reaction in the University of Wittenberg to Copernicanism touches on the larger issue of the relationship between the Reforma-
tion and the scientific revolution. With the Reformation and the rise of science coming to prominence at approximately the same time questions about how they may have been related frequently arise. Conclusions about the connections between the two have been varied and conflicting. The nineteenth-century French Protestant historian, Alphonse de Candolle, noted that, of the ninety-two foreign members elected to the Academy of Sciences in Paris from its founding in 1666 to 1866, seventy-one were Protestant, while only sixteen were Roman Catholics, and the remaining five were Jews. This observation, coupled with the fact that during these two centuries European Roman Catholics far outnumbered their Protestant counterparts, compelled Candolle to conclude that Protestantism and science were not only compatible but intimately wedded to one another.2 Conversely, others have argued that the Reformation and the advance of science were fundamentally antagonistic, with early reformers taking an inflexible stand and arresting the progress of theories such as those espoused by Copernicus. Andrew Dickson White has provided the classic argument for this point of view in his two-volume History of the Warfare of Science and Theology in Christendom.3 Recent studies of the issue have been more sophisticated, neither resorting to the overstated military metaphor of White, nor being reduced to the oversimplified head-counting technique of Candolle. Most investigations, however, continue to characterize the relationship between the Reformation and science as either essentially adversarial or inextricably linked. Such facile categorizations are wholly inadequate and fail to recognize the more subtle dimensions ["subtle dimensions" -- that only scholars can figure out?  Cannot the plain writings of Luther settle the issue for all?] of the question.
The subtleties of the issue are apparent in the case of Lutheran Wittenberg and Copernican astronomy.4 The position of Wittenberg, represented by its most influential spokesmen, Luther and Melanchthon, has traditionally been understood to be inherently opposed to Copernicanism. The following pages will argue, however, that the University of Wittenberg and its faculty helped shape an intellectual milieu that proved to be helpful to the expansion of Copernican teaching. This argument is not to imply that Luther or Melanchthon endorsed the teaching of their contemporary, Copernicus. They did not, [At least Ferry admits this! But watch this essay as it unravels this admission.] nor was there any compelling reason for them to question the traditional cosmological matrix of their day. Nevertheless, the
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guiding lights of Wittenberg did not interfere with this alternative approach to understanding the stars. On the contrary, they helped facilitate much of the earliest reception of the controversial Copernican theory. This transitional time, therefore, ought not be depicted as either a pro-Copernican or anti-Copernican period, [Ferry flip-flops between "Copernican" and "Copernicanism", not a scholarly thing to do, and so ends up being deceptive.] for each description says too much. Instead, the example of the University of Wittenberg suggests how complex [Complex? It is only complex for those who allow themselves to turn away from the Bible.the response to Copernicus could be. In contrast to its place on the leading edge of ecclesiastical reform, Wittenberg’s approach to the initial assertions of the new science was mainly reactive. But react it did and, while generally conservative in its analysis, the University of Wittenberg did not receive Copernicanism with either animosity [This assertion about “Copernicanism”, (i.e. not the Copernican Theory, that the sun could not stand still, is not correct and disproven in the author’s very next sentence.] or aloofness. It engaged the otherwise earth-shaking argument with studied caution and interest—if not always complete agreement. [Another muted admission of the truth?]
The teachings of Luther and Melanchthon are consistently cited as evidence of their disapproval of Copernican cosmology. Admittedly, [grudgingly?] the Wittenberg reformers were not personally impressed with the heliocentric interpretation of the universe, nor could they accept the theory that the earth and not the sun was in motion. Scriptural citations [What Scriptural citations? Why no mention of specific Bible verses?and, especially in the case of Melanchthon, Aristotelian references were raised in opposition; [At least it is admitted that “Scriptural citations” were given!] yet neither Luther nor Melanchthon addressed the unconventional ideas with great urgency. In traditional scholarship, however, certain of their comments have been used in a way which misrepresents the positions of the Lutheran reformers. [Author Ferry is here confusing “traditional scholarship” with those using Scriptural citations – that “misrepresents the Lutheran reformers”.] It will be necessary to place isolated remarks [Sometimes scholars can be helpful in this regard, but only if interested in the Truth.] into the larger framework, firstly, of Luther’s attitude toward astronomy and scientific inquiry and, secondly, of Melanchthon’s curricular reforms and accommodating approach [the word “accommodating” is slipped in suggesting Melanchthon here wanted to accommodate the Bible to “science”, not the other way around.toward views to which he did not personally adhere. Finally, the extent to which the University of Wittenberg served to shape the disposition toward Copernicus at other German universities of Protestant persuasion will be considered in further detail. It will be shown that Wittenberg's impact on the teaching of astronomy abroad was extensive and that its measured interest [?] in the theories of Copernicus [now it is said to be the “theories of Copernicus”, but will he be consistent in this??had a rippling effect throughout Germany. In stepping away from the question of whether or to what extent Wittenberg was for or against Copernicus, this essay will demonstrate how the Lutheran Reformation opened the way for a preliminary but
necessarily limited introduction of the new science.
Martin Luther was a university man. [This "university reform" is a red herring, off-topic, not actually the real issue of what is objective truth.  Universities do not establish truth for faith, only the Bible does. Others have repeated this “university” movement notion.  The Holy Spirit was not schooled in the universities.] More than any other, his name is associated with the Reformation, and an integral feature of Luther's agenda was the introduction of university reform. Addressing the German nobility, Luther wrote, "The universities, too, need a good, thorough reformation. I must say that, no matter whom it annoys."5 The brunt of the responsibility for this task was left to Melanchthon, but Luther’s input and participation as dean of the theological faculty were indispensable.6 Certainly, his interests focused mainly on the department of theology rather than the sciences, but Luther maintained an active interest in what was transpiring throughout the university.
In addition to academic and institutional interests the professor of theology remained a keen observer of nature, and his writings and sermons are replete with references to the natural world. As Luther scholar Heinrich Bornkamm [Bornkamm’s confusion was covered in this blog post.] has put it, "Luther had the necessary talent, the prerequisite for a proper study of nature: a sense of primal wonder and awe."7 It is not surprising, therefore, that rumors of startling new cosmologicaltheories [the term “theories” is admitted herewould come to Luther’s attention. His apparent response leaves evidence to suggest that "primal wonder and awe" only went so far and that finally Luther’s view of the solar system was governed by traditional geocentric and geostatic assumptions. [This is a common activity of modern theologians – that Luther was a “child of his times”, even in spiritual matters. Here it is displayed with the phrase “governed by traditional geocentric assumptions.” But I have not read that Luther held firmly to the Ptolemaic system, certainly not the same as he held to the Bible’s natural history.] In an often cited quotation [see this blog post] from Luther’s Tischreden dated June 4, 1539, his student Anton Lauterbach recorded Luther as having said:
There was mention of a certain astrologer who wanted to prove that the earth moves and not the sky, the sun, and the moon. This would be as if somebody were riding on a cart or in a ship and imagined that he was standing still while the earth and the trees were moving. ... So it goes now. Whoever wants to be clever must agree with nothing that others esteem. He must do something of his own. That is what the fellow does who wishes to turn the whole of astronomy upside down. Even in these things that are thrown into disorder I believe the Holy Scriptures, for Joshua commanded the sun to stand still and not the earth [Joshua 10:12].8
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To what extent do these remarks reflect Luther’s attitude toward scientific inquiry and the value of astronomy? Such a statement appears damaging to the argument that Luther himself contributed to the acceptance of the theories of Copernicus. [Ah, but Ferry is about to tell us that "appearances are deceiving" to the unscholarly eye.] Moreover, the parallel citation [Oh? A second witness?] in Johann Aurifaber’s version of the statement [see my translation and St. Louis edition referencerenders an even more disparaging assessment. [Our scholar is going to have to work overtime!] Included in the quotation is a phrase frequently reproduced by those desiring to demonstrate Luther's hostility toward Copernicus and the new science. Aurifaber added these words [not Luther?]: “The fool wants to turn the whole art of astronomy upside down.”9 Though comparably mild [Does the reader agree that the term “fool” is mild?] by the reformer's often caustic standards, it is not surprising that those eager to portray Luther as one of the key figures in the early Protestant suppression of science have latched on to the phrase. [Ferry is building a straw man argument, that the rabid scientific opposition, e.g. A.D. White is wrong, not that Copernicanism is not objective truth.] At a glance these words seem to go some distance [!] in support of the contention that Luther’s literalist [the author avoids the term “biblicistic”]  interpretation of the Scripture inhibited his appreciation of science and was an obstacle to his understanding the contribution of Copernicus. [Ferry avoids the real issue of whether Copernican Astronomy can be objective truth, focusing instead on the issue of scientific inquiry.  Ferry completely avoids the Scriptural issue.  But Luther does not!  Isn’t Ferry a Lutheran? Maybe we should read Luther, not Ferry?]
A mere glance, [We are not allowed to make judgments from the obvious, maybe only scholars are allowed to judge on the spiritual import of this matter?]however, will not suffice to explain the whole of Luther’s scientific perspective. This statement must be placed alongside the far more extensive corpus of Luther’s writings about science and astronomy to give a more complete reading of his opinions. [Indeed, this is true!  But has he read Luther?] Furthermore,  elaboration upon Luther’s thoughts about the authority of Scripture for theology and how this authority relates to other disciplines is necessary in order to grasp more accurately his understanding of the interaction between science and faith. [Will Ferry take notice of Luther’s writings on Biblical chronology?  (Answer: no.)]
Before proceeding with these explanations, however, there is much that calls into question the extent to which his off-hand "table talk" should be taken as a reflection of Luther’s sentiments about Copernicus. [This point can be conceded because Luther plainly taught the same thing in other writings of his own, as Franz Pieper pointed out in his Christian Dogmatics. No, this Table Talk only confirms Luther’s direct teaching.] Informal conversation with the steady stream of dinner guests at the Luther household was an important feature of the Wittenberg professor’s rapport with his students and other interested parties. His comments ranged over a vast array of topics, and his eager pupils assiduously took notes on nearly everything Luther had to say. The dynamic of these kind of discussions was such that rarely were the words carefully conceived or considered in advance. It is clear that idle conversation should not bear the same weight of authority in interpreting Luther’s point of view as treatises or
commentaries in which his choice of words was more deliberate. It is necessary, too, to raise the question of reliability. It is certainly not difficult to imagine that Luther might have made such a remark, even in its least flattering form. The possibility that a later editor, because of personal opposition to Copernicus or simply on the basis of hearsay, incorporated the statement in question has also been suggested.10 [Is the reader convinced on this “question of reliability” that has “been suggested”?... when there are 2 witnesses, not one?  Is the author maybe proud to rely on the great John Dillenberger for this insight?] In any event, the only recorded negative comments Luther ever made against Copernicus (presumably, although the astronomer is never mentioned by name) came not from his own pen but from the notes and recollections of his students. [This is an “argument from silence”. The old Missouri Synod relied primarily on Luther’s writings on Genesis and his sermons to refute Copernicanism.  This caution regarding Luther’s Table Talk therefore is unnecessary.]
More significant, however, is the fact that Luther’s remarks came in 1539, four years before the De Revolutionibus of Copernicus was made public. Even theNarratio Prima, a preliminary Copernican treatise written by the mathematician Georg Rheticus (a colleague of Luther’s on the faculty of Wittenberg), was not published until 1541. Many of the ideas of Copernicus were circulating before this date, but Luther’s comments about "the new astrologer who wanted to prove the earth moves" predated the formal presentation of Copernicanism by at least two yearsHe might be blamed for a few premature and harsh words, [Might be blamed? Maybe he means to say “can be blamed”?] but to consider Luther anti-Copernican before Copernicanism was off the ground is anachronistic. [Ferry may call this “anachronistic” argument “more significant”, but it rather appears to be straining towards his agenda.]
Luther likely [Likely?] believed that rumors about the radical postulate regarding the earth’s motion could be refuted on the basis of Scripture, [Is it only “likely” that Luther believed… the basis of Scripture?] but he did not thereby dismiss the valuable role of science or the legitimacy of astronomical reflection. [Here is the“straw man” argument in all its glory! Ferry grudgingly admits Luther’s “basis of Scripture”, but is more interested in saving the reputation of the “role of science” and the legitimacy of astronomical reflection. See Luther’s own words on this comparison at my Part 20 blog post.He was critical of a mere naturalistic explanation of what could be observed [How quickly author Ferry shifts away from the “basis of Scripture”!]; Luther believed that the behavior of all things, whether in the heavens or upon the earth, depended upon the Creator God who could command all of creation to act according to or in opposition to its nature.11 Luther acknowledged that this view could not be understood apart from faith and wrote: "This is so because, when God’s miracles are performed, they are understood by none but the godly. The ungodly indeed disparage all of God’s miracles and say they happened by chance. They attribute them to some essential and formal causes, as the mathematicians do."12 Luther was unable to conceive of cause-and-effect scientific interpretations that failed also to take into account the guiding hand of God. He was concerned that this kind
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of explanation, if allowed to stand alone, would obscure the supreme power of the deity. But this concern does not mean that Luther perceived the intensive study of nature to be a threat to theology. Knowledge of nature did not encroach upon revelation or diminish the message of the gospel, and thus Luther could encourage a freedom of research and scientific teaching.13 [As true as this is, it is a misuse of  reasoning to use it against the plain teaching of the Bible.  It was taken from Werner Elert and E.W. Hengstenberg, who was described by the 1927 Lutheran Cyclopedia (p 317) as a “mild rationalist”; see Part 10a].
Astronomy was a science that Luther held in particular esteem. Numbered among the liberal arts, astronomy was one of the quadrivium of subjects taught in secondary schools. It was a part of the strong pedagogical emphasis Luther encouraged for the young of Germany in order to provide the nation with much needed educated men.14 Even beyond its utility, Luther spoke of the great pleasure to be derived from such stimulating pursuits:
Therefore we should not follow the imaginations of the interpreters who suppose that the knowledge of nature, the study of astronomy or all of philosophy, is being condemned here and who teach that such things are to be despised as vain and useless speculations. For the benefits of these arts are many and great, as is plain to see every day. In addition, there is not only great utility, but also great pleasure in investigating the nature of things.15
While not hesitating to acknowledge the legitimacy of astronomy, Luther was more skeptical toward astrology. "We will gladly allow astronomy," he once stated, "but I cannot bear astrology because it has no demonstrable proof—its prophecies are doubtful."16 Astronomy, on the other hand, was affirmed by Luther as "the oldest science and has been instrumental in introducing many arts."17 The distinction which Luther recognized between astronomy and astrology [As true as this is, isn’t author Ferry using it to suggest the idea that opposition to Copernicanism is like holding to astrology, i.e. unscientific?] was not typical of his day. The two were regularly interwoven in the minds of many, including the likes of Copernicus and also Melanchthon. According to Luther, Melanchthon pursued astrology "as I take a drink of strong beer when I am troubled with grievous thoughts."18 Concerning his colleague, Luther lamented, "I regret that Philip Melanchthon adheres so strongly to astrology. He is very much deluded for he is easily affected by signs in the sky and deceived by his own thoughts. He has often been mistaken, but he cannot be dissuaded."19 [For author Ferry, it is acceptable here to use Luther’s Table Talks for this reasoning, but not for direct comments refuting Copernicanism.]Eager to separate astronomy from pseudo
science, Luther’s unfavorable attitude toward astrology provides insight into what he believed constituted genuine science. Commenting on Genesis 1:14, Luther wrote [For author Ferry, it is acceptable here to use Luther’s writings on Genesis for this reasoning, but not for direct comments refuting Copernicanism.]:
I shall never be convinced that astrology should be numbered among the sciences. And I shall adhere to this opinion because astrology is entirely without proof. The appeal to experience has no effect on me. All the astrological experiences are purely individual cases. The experts have taken note of and recorded only those instances which did not fail; but they took no note of the rest of the attempts where they were wrong and the results they predicted as certain did not follow ... and so I do not believe that from such partial observations can a science be established.20 [LW, 1, p. 45]
Luther’s sense of astronomy as a legitimate science, on the other hand, underscores the assertion [not fact?] that he recognized the natural sciences as having a foundation of knowledge distinct from scriptural revelation. [Distinct? Perhaps he really means to say “better than”? Where does this leave one with the discarded “scriptural revelation”?] What is more, given Luther’s attitude toward those whose investigation of the stars led to the plethora of predictions and speculations, it might be expected that Luther would dismiss such practices and their practitioners out of hand. However, this was not his position:
If someone should uphold them with less insistence, I for my part have no great objection. Geniuses must be allowed their pastime! Therefore, if you put aside all superstition, it does not offend me greatly if anyone exercises his ingenuity in toying with these predictions.21
It would stand to reason that, if he could tolerate astrology, an authentic science such as astronomy provided an even more appropriate context for research and reflection. [Reflection?  Maybe Ferry means to say to “reflect” on the possibility that Joshua 10:13 isn’t actually true, the issue on everyone’s mind? No, Luther did NOT mean “reflection” or rationalization in this sense. How easy today’s theologians mix research with their own rationalizing “reflection”.] Luther’s willingness to allow geniuses their pastime with no great objection [This sweeping assertion is not true for a rationalizing “reflection”, only for research.] was based upon a pair of underlying and connected principles. Firstly, Luther was confident that the fundamental content of Scripture remained unthreatened and untouched by astronomy and other disciplines.  His biblical hermeneutic did not hinder but rather could easily adjust to science. [How grand are Ferry’s broad assertions that are in reality a mixed mess. Again, this is only true for pure research, NOT a rationalizing “reflection”. On the face of it, Ferry’s notion that Luther adjusted “his biblical hermeneutic” to “easily adjust to science” is pure fiction – see Luther’s own words here: “It is better for learning to be destroyed rather than religion”.This was true, secondly, because Luther recognized two distinct sources of knowledge—reason and revelation. Science and
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Scripture, he believed, each explained things differently, utilizing different systems of language. The differing discourses, however, while often contrasting, were not mutually exclusive or contradictory [Ferry slips in a “non sequitur”. It is common to find contradictory evidence between observances of nature and the Bible. Copernicus’s own theory is a prime example! But true theologians are willing to take off their doctor’s hats and bow to Holy Scripture. Even Copernicus did not want to publish his own work… ]. A more detailed analysis of these features of Luther’s thought will demonstrate how he could restrain himself from interfering with a cosmological perspective [Ferry calls it “cosmological perspective”, not a “cosmological theory”; in reality this assertion is not correct in light of Luther’s many references to cosmology/astronomy where the Bible does speak of them.] which he did not hold despite a growing adherence to Copernicus at the University of Wittenberg. [How smoothly Ferry flatly states this without using the term “perspective”, let alone “theory”.]
Increasing approval of Copernican theory [Theory? Ferry almost shocks us by allowing this term.] was not confined to mathematicians or astronomers on the faculty. Caspar Cruciger, Luther’s colleague in the department of theology, was charmed by what he knew of the teaching of Copernicus. Certainly, Luther had the ability as dean of the theological faculty to take action against any differences of opinion within his department which he considered a serious problem, and he was undoubtedly a formidable enough force to restrict views which he opposed anywhere in the university. [This is an “argument from silence”. We do not know, but I might even argue that Luther cautioned his fellow theologians privately.]  It has even been argued [by a “moderate rationalist” Werner Elert] that, in view of his influence over a number of princes, Luther could have seen to the suppression of Copernican teaching throughout the Lutheran territories.22 [This is a “straw man” argument as Ferry allows the thought that “Copernican teaching” can mean objective truth. Of course Luther would not interfere with theoretical research that explains apparent astronomical motions better than a previous theory.] He was not compelled to proceed with any stringent measures, however, because his understanding of Scripture did not require him to attempt to suppress scientific explanations of the operation of the universe. [So what? Again, this does not say he allowed this teaching as an objective truth that contradicted the Bible.  Everyone, including Copernicus, knew his theory flew in the face of Holy Scripture.]
What little he knew of the new science, admittedly, [Admittedly? Surely this is a difficult admission for Ferry!] would prove difficult to harmonize with his biblical understanding, [Ferry does not explain to the reader why this is so because everyone knows Joshua 10:13  – “And the sun stood still.”] and Luther never abandoned Ptolemaic assumptions. [What a slam at Luther! It was not his Ptolemaic assumptions!  It was the Bible!!] Luther, however, did not regard Scripture as a scientific textbook, [This statement proves nothing but wants to appear profound. Luther regarded Scripture as Truth itself.]  nor was his acceptance of the prevailing cosmology [Where did Luther say he accepted the Ptolemaic Astronomy?] such that his theological perspective was dependent upon it. He viewed Scripture christologically. [This is the buzzword for those who want to hide their lack of defense of the divine inspiration of the words of Scripture.] In other words, the person and work of Jesus Christ were seen as the sum and substance of Holy Writ.23 [Again Ferry relies on John Dillenberger’s “expert theological opinion”. As the 1886 Synodical Conference responded: “ … the New Theologians cry, “No, Christ is the foundation of the Faith, not Scripture!… It really does sound nice when they say, ‘No! Christ is the foundation of the Christian Faith!’ But this is nothing more than a superb illusion.] The Bible was not a scientific explanation of nature, and Luther was not confined to a rigid biblicism [“rigid biblicism”? This term has been used many times since 1993, also in the Concordia Journal, Summer 2017Andrew Dickson White called the the Old (German) Missouri Synod “ancient believing text worshippers”. Ferry charges as “biblicism” to believe Joshua 10:13 teaches “the sun stood still.] that prevented him from seeing the value of natural science[Ferry implies that anyone who believes Joshua 10:13 cannot see “the value of natural science”.] Instead, he was aware that science and faith were distinct disciplines, [But as Luther overruled historians who contradicted the Bible’s history (see this blog, and this blog), so he overrules astronomers who overrule the Bible’s natural history.] each being directed by its own discourse and each autonomous within its own sphere.  He was, therefore, willing to accept the astronomers’ conclusion that the moon was the smallest and lowest of the stars even though Scripture referred to it as one of the two great lights” with control over the night and the heavenly
bodies. The Old Testament scholar conjectured that Scripture was simply describing the moon as it appeared from the perspective of earth.24 [see this Table Talk Latin text translation of TR, 5:5259; our author is quite willing to use a Table Talk here (see above) for his very weak example of a contradiction to other Table Talks (see above). We may question its reliability here as the author does on the others.] 
Religious and scientific terms, therefore, do not refer to the same thing in precisely the same way. Recognizing that Scripture and science describe things differently, indeed at times even contrastingly, Luther asserted that each possessed autonomy within its own domain. This view was framed most succinctly in theses prepared by Luther for the regular quarterly disputation at the University of Wittenberg in January of 1539. It is safe to assume that Luther gave more thought to the relationship between theology and other disciplines in the preparation of these theses than in his after-dinner comments about Copernicus a few months later. In this disputation Luther was responding to a proposition advanced by the University of Paris asserting that truth was the same in philosophy and theology. Luther argued that philosophy had its own independent meaning and was qualified to set forth the truth in the realm of nature while theology was to be preeminent in the realm of grace. Thus, it followed that, while reason was to keep silent in the church [Luther’s “The Disputation on ‘The Word was Made Flesh’”, LW 38, p 240: “14. But wherever either the syllogistic form or philosophical reason encroaches (upon theology), this saying of Paul, ‘Let the woman be silent in church’ (1 Cor. 14:34), and that other passage, “Listen to him” (Matt. 17:5), must be applied to it.”], it was nevertheless understood by Luther to be a divinely given gift by which humanity was to assert dominion in the world of nature.25 Selections from Luther’s theses of 1539, "The Disputation Concerning the Passage: The Word Was Made Flesh," provide a sense of how he could permit astronomy, which was among the disciplines of philosophy, its own autonomy:
Theses 1. Although the saying, "Every truth is in agreement with every other truth," is to be upheld, nevertheless, what is true in one field of learning is not always true in other fields of learning.
Theses 2.[sic 4] The Sorbonne, the mother of errors, has very incorrectly defined that truth is the same in philosophy and theology.
[Theses 14 conveniently omitted  – see above. Could it also be because Luther quotes “Let your women keep silence in the churches”?]
Theses 36. Finally, something is true in one area of philosophy which is, nonetheless, false in another area of philosophy.
Theses 38. Thus, in particular liberal arts, or rather crafts,
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if you look them over, you will discover that the same thing is not true in all of them.
Theses 39. How much less is it possible for the same thing to be true in philosophy and theology, for the difference between them is infinitely greater than that between liberal arts and crafts.
Theses 40. We would act more correctly if we left dialectic and philosophy in their own area and learned to speak in a new language in the realm of faith apart from every sphere.26 [Our author shows his lack of understanding of the Reformer, Martin Luther. These Theses prove the opposite of his “sense”.]
Luther did not espouse the medieval "theory of double truth" condemned at the Fifth Lateran Council (1512-1517) but claimed that the same thing was not always true in different disciplines. Contrasts, however, are not the same as contradictions. While contrasting versions of truth occur between disciplines—for example, between astronomy and theology, [Ferry slips in his misuse of Luther’s point. Luther could allow the theoretical use of astronomy, all the while knowing that it was NOT objective truth!] Luther maintained contradictions occurred only within the same system of language and not between one discourse and another. For Luther, words were like coins which are the acceptable currency only in the place where they are minted, and so also the various disciplines have full autonomy within the limits of their own individual spheres. The meaning of words is tied to a specific discourse and, when transferred to another, may be interpreted differently according to the new context.27 [How smooth our author is!... as he appears to be on Luther’s side, then straddles the fence, then assumes the reader accepts (with himself) the double objective truth of Copernicanism and Joshua 10:13. Luther here is extricating from the sophists the right use of philosophy for theology … it does have a use but ONLY as a servant of the Word.]
Luther had no theological reason to hinder scientific progress. [Where is Ferry’s defense of the Bible’s warning against “oppositions of science falsely so called” 1 Tim. 6:20?] His literal biblical exegesis [Ferry admits he has an uphill battle to refute Luther's plain teaching. Could it be he does the same thing with Scripture itself??does not imply that he understood each scriptural reference as a matter of scientific truth. Inconsistencies between disciplines and their discourses could be met with adjustments. For Luther, of course, the adaptations [Doesn’t he mean “accommodations”?] would take place within traditional [Don’t say “Scriptural”! It has to be called “traditional” if it holds to … the Bible.] rather than Copernican science [here implied to be the objective truth], but he made available a pattern which others, including colleagues at the University of Wittenberg, could alter to fit their own astronomical conceptions. [Theoretical science that remained so, as a servant to the Word, and only remained so, i.e. theoretical, could remain.  Otherwise his directive is, “learning is to be destroyed rather than religion”. See this blog post.]
The most influential of Luther’s colleagues was the rector of the university, Philip Melanchthon. [If Ferry can twist Luther’s meaning (and Scripture’s), then his job is easier with Melanchthon.] His key post in the faculty made Melanchthon’s response to Copernicanism critical to whether or not the view would be permitted expression within the academic
community of Wittenberg. Melanchthon came to Wittenberg in 1518 to assume a newly created chair in Greek at the age of twenty-one. When the Elector Frederick the Wise established the University of Wittenberg in 1502, the imprint of the humanistic movement was immediately present, but the addition of Melanchthon marked the beginning of a thrust to incorporate more fully humanitas into the curriculum.28 Among the measures of educational reform that Melanchthon stressed was the study of mathematics and thus astronomy. He believed astronomy merited a prominent place in the curriculum because the study of the heavens lent itself to a greater appreciation of the order and beauty of the divine creation.29 Linking the study of nature with the adulation of the Creator, Melanchthon offered this praise of astronomy:
To recognize God the Creator from the order of heavenly motions and of his entire work, that is true and useful divination, for which reason God wanted us also to behold his works. Let us therefore cherish the subject which demonstrates the order of the motions of the description of the year, and let us not be deterred by harmful opinions, since there are some who—rightly or wrongly—always hate the pursuit of knowledge.30
By 1525 two lectureships were devoted to mathematics, with scientific expertise and aptitude for teaching being among the requirements expected of candidates under consideration for the positions.31 The university’s renown as a center for the study of mathematics grew under the rectorate of Melanchthon. The great French educational reformer, Peter Ramus, admiringly called Germany "the nursery of mathematics" and praised Melanchthon, the Praeceptor Germaniae, as the leading force:
Just as Plato revived the study of mathematics in Greece through the great power of his eloquence and erudition, so Melanchthon found [mathematical studies] already greatly encouraged in most academies in Germany, with the exception of Wittenberg. Whereupon, through the force of of much and varied instruction and through the example of a pious and upright life, which, at least in my opinion, no doctor or professor in that country has ever attained, he
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wondrously ignited [those studies] with the result that Wittenberg became superior not only in theology and eloquence, in which fame it especially excels, but also in the studies of the mathematical discipline.32
Wittenberg attracted important and influential mathematicians and astronomers such as Georg Rheticus and Erasmus Reinhold. The powerful tradition ofmathematical astronomy that Melanchthon introduced into the curriculum of Wittenberg did not of itself predispose the faculty toward a particular cosmology, but it was within this environment that traditional views [Does Ferry mean Ptolemaic  or does he not mean Scriptural views?were challenged and newertheories considered. [Now Ferry mixes in the word “theories”, but only to keep ideas mixed.]
Melanchthon himself approached Copernicanism with ambiguity. The strong words of objection he used at first were eventually tempered, and over time Melanchthon began to write and speak of Copernicus more approvingly. More significantly, the manner in which he interacted with those who demonstrated Copernican sympathies reveals that, while Melanchthon was personally unconvinced by most of the theory, he remained extremely supportive of and encouraging toward younger faculty members who were inclined otherwise. [This is only because the THEORY was better, NOT because THEORY was objective truth.]
This flexibility must be placed alongside his persuasiveness within and beyond the "Melanchthon Circle."33 Melanchthon’s cautious attitude toward Copernicus created a model of circumspection [Ferry will not admit this is because of the objective Bible truth against Copernicanism, but only because there were competing theories (old Ptolemy theory).] emulated not only by most of those who were a part of the Wittenberg faculty, but also by the many German universities that came within Wittenberg’s orbit of influence. Melanchthon and his circle left their stamp on the discipline of astronomy by staffing many leading German universities with their pupils and preparing the textbooks used in those institutions.34 Robert Westman argues: "The effect of this informal scientific group on the early reception of the Copernican theory [If only Ferry had maintained this terminology of “theory”!] cannot be underestimated."35 His view [Westman’s], however, is that Melanchthon’s impact hindered the realist and cosmological claims of Copernicus from receiving full consideration. [Ferry admits that general history, not LC-MS history, views Melanchthon against accepting CopernicanISM!Yet, [Ferry is straining mightily here!] as will be shown, the recognition grantedCopernican thought [Where did the word “theory” disappear to?]albeit limitedopened the way for a more complete consideration of his theory. [Oh, Ferry has not completely forgotten to slip in the word “theory”] Though by no means progressive in his thinking about astronomy, [What a slam! at  Melanchthon who saw the benefits of this more accurate theoretical science, but Ferry now judges otherwise! How odd it is the Ferry praises, then criticizes Melanchthon – all to serve his not-so-hidden agenda.] Melanchthon helped introduce a pivotal transitional phase of
receptivity to Copernican cosmology.
Considering Melanchthon’s own philosophical background, arriving at a position of tolerance of Copernicanism [Ferry is coming out of the closet here as he switches from using the word “theory” to the term that admits it as objective truth: “Copernicanism”.] could not have been easily accomplished. For his time Melanchthon was somewhat of an authority in the field of the natural sciences. He encouraged expansion within the discipline and recruited talented men for the faculty, but these actions were not indicative of a wide-open attitude toward scientific innovation. On the contrary, Melanchthon at first opposed Copernicus. [And why not?  If he only gradually could see its theoretical benefits, even though it contradicted the objective truth of the Bible?] This reaction was not due to the fact that Melanchthon himself was a practicing astronomer; his concerns were based upon theoretical rather than practical considerations and were guided more by ancient texts than an informed criticism of the new astronomy. Melanchthon was a gifted humanist scholar as well as university administrator, yet each of these roles contributed to his initial discomfort with Copernicus. [This is all speculations by author Ferry.]
As a humanist Melanchthon was concerned with classical thought including a traditional conception of nature that was widely accepted and rarely challenged. Melanchthon was aware of how antiquity struggled to arrive at a satisfactory explanation of the orbits of the planets. He knew that the ancients generally disregarded the view of Aristarchus of Samos concerning the immobility of the sun and movement of the earth.36 Werner Elert has written: "It is self- evident that his attitude toward Copernicus is part of this whole sphere of ideas which characterizes Melanchthon as a genuine humanist but has nothing at all to do with his evangelical theology."37 Melanchthon’s lectures on physics and astronomy were firmly entrenched in the teachings of Aristotle and Ptolemy and, looking at Copernican cosmology through his humanist lenses, Melanchthon saw it as less an innovation than a revival of Aristarchus who had been already discredited in the ancient world.38
In his position as university rector Melanchthon reintroduced Aristotle into the curricular program in a variety of areas, not the least of which were the natural sciences. Luther’s attitude toward Aristotle was mainly hostile, and the package of university reform which he recommended early in the Reformation initiated more than a decade of de-emphasizing Aristotelianism.39 Following the extensive university reforms in 1536, however, Luther acquiesced in
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Melanchthon’s restoration of Aristotle and then became convinced himself of the appropriateness of Aristotelian precepts in various areas of learning. Melanchthon successfully rekindled interest in the study of Aristotle and republished works of an Aristotelian inclination such as Sacrobosco’s introduction to astronomy.
With reference to the study of nature, Melanchthon regarded Aristotle as the unequaled authority. When he first learned in some detail of the Copernican theory through the Narratio Prima of Rheticus sent to him on February 15, 1540, Melanchthon could not have approached the material with complete objectivity. His humanist bent with its Aristotelian outlook informed Melanchthon’s assessment of Copernicanism and prompted his less than favorable response.
Melanchthon’s earliest reference to Copernicus came in the form of a letter to Mithobius on October 16, 1541, in which he casually mentions the theory and regards it more as a disturbance than a serious threat.40 A more detailed analysis of the Copernican system is found in the Initia Doctrinae Physicae, a series of lectures published in 1549. 41 In a section pertaining to the movement of the world, Melanchthon opposed the system in the first instance by citing scriptural passages [Even after Luther’s death in 1546, Melanchthon “opposed the (Copernican) system…citing scriptural passages”. Melanchthon was not so weak on this matter that he required Luther’s backing – he remained opposed to “Copernicanism” after Luther’s death!which led him to conclude: strengthened by these divine proofs, let us embrace the truth, and let us not permit ourselves to be led away from it by the deceptions of those who think it is an ornament of the intellect to throw the arts into confusion.42 [Here is where Ferry can make a claim of scholarship – he quotes M. directly and translates the Latin for us.  Well done! And we see M.’s strength. But… there is a “but”>>] But Melanchthon was not satisfied to refute Copernicus exclusively on the basis of Scripture; a far more extensive compilation of argumenta physica were also incorporated to defend his position. Within these physical arguments it was reiterated that the earth was situated at the center of all the universe and that it was immobilea position consistent with [Scripture? No…] the Aristotelian doctrine of simple motion which claimed that, if the earth moved, everything would break into pieces.43 [This is a “straw man” argument as even Ferry admitted above that M. “opposed the system in the first instance by citing scriptural passages”.] Melanchthon’s reading of Copernican astronomy could not be reconciled with his Aristotelian predisposition, and, therefore, the cause of his opposition was not so much specifically biblical as it was philosophical. [This is purely Ferry’s assertion but even just reading all of Ferry’s quotes from M. above shows that he is straining, even contradicting himself – “In the first instance by citing scriptural passages.”. Ferry cannot seem to imagine anyone hanging on to a Biblical proof.]
His opposition, however, was not absolute or unyielding. As Melanchthon continued in his Initia, he expressed a more positive
and favorable interpretation of aspects of the Copernican theory. For example, in reference to Copernican lunar theory he spoke of its description of the movement of the moon as "beautifully put together." Nevertheless, he hastened to express his preference for the traditional teaching of Ptolemy, "in order that we may attract studious persons to the common teaching adopted in the schools."44 It is important to note, however, that Melanchthon did acknowledge certain features of the Copernican theory to have merit [This does not prove objective truth, it only proves the Copernican Theory was superior in predicting certain astronomical motions.] and in several places utilized data drawn from Copernicus to support his own conclusions.45 
Even more significant is the evidence of an adjustment in Melanchthon’s thought toward Copernicus. In 1549, the year of the initial publication of his Initia Doctrinae Physicae, Melanchthon wrote in a speech to honor Cruciger, "We have begun to admire and love Copernicus more."46 [Who wouldn’t? The theory gave better predictions than old Theory.] And in the second and all subsequent editions of the Initia Melanchthon deleted the antagonistic allusions to those who argueeither from love of novelty or from the desire to appear clever that the earth moves.47 There is a clear indication [an “argument from silence”] that Melanchthon’s original resistance to Copernicus and his astronomical assertions diminished in intensity by 1550. [Ferry does not use his earlier argument of M.’s preference for Ptolemaic Theory and that further scientific inquiry proved the superiority of Copernicus's Theory over Ptolemy's Theory as Melanchthon's reason for dropping resistance to Copernicus Theory. Another question would be: Did Melanchthon delete his Scriptural basis? Ferry omits a discussion of this.]
Moreover, in examining the relationship between Melanchthon and those on the Wittenberg faculty who approached Copernicus with greater sympathy during the previous decade, it becomes clear that the university rector's flexibility accommodated [Ferry lets slip the word “accommodate”, a term that reveals a duplicity, a potential for deception.] views not completely consistent with his own well before 1550. Melanchthon’s reputation as a theologian who often negotiated and occasionally compromised on articles of Lutheran doctrine is frequently attributed to his irenic spirit. The Philippists, that contingent of more moderate individuals who were one of the contending factions in the late sixteenth-century struggle for ecclesiastical supremacy within Lutheranism, were named for Melanchthon and observed his more widely inclusive theological stance. The extent, of course, to which Melanchthon’s desire for concord in the church caused him and his followers to stray from the purer strains of Luther's theology is not within the scope of this essay, but identifying Melanchthon’s adaptability in the controversial realm of theology makes the idea of his flexibility in the less consequential sphere of astronomy [Even Walther admitted that one could err on Copernicanism and not yet completely lose their Christian faith.  But when one does lose their Christian faith over a loss of faith in the Bible, is that “less consequential”? Walther maintained this great warning saying it is safer to believe the Bible and leave any “accommodation” to the “Last Day”.] seem the more
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plausible. [It is not clear that Melanchthon wavered on Copernicanism, even as he wavered on other doctrinal matters.] Caspar Peucer, Melanchthon’s son-in-law and his successor as the rector of the University of Wittenberg, was jailed for being a crypto-Calvinist but not for his introduction of various elements of Copernican thought into his teaching of astronomy. Scientific deviation was not perceived to be as much of a threat as theological aberration during the Lutheran Reformation, and Melanchthon could allow and even encourage latitude in his faculty with few qualms[Few qualms?  Melanchthon’s own testimony flies in the face of this assertion. Does Ferry have few qualms that his students of Concordia University–Wisconsin might lose their Christian faith because they question the truth of the Bible?  Does Ferry have “few qualms” as one of its alumni is now a noted Muslim government official?]
Under the aegis of Melanchthon the University of Wittenberg permitted the cultivation of Copernican sympathies [sympathies”?] among some prominent faculty members. In turn, these men introduced Copernicus in their own teaching. The most convinced adherent of Copernicus in the University of Wittenberg was the mathematician Rheticus. Through the efforts of Melanchthon he came to Wittenberg as professor of mathematics in 1537 at the age of twenty-three. A preliminary draft of the conclusions of Copernicus, the Commentariolus, began to circulate as early as 1530, and Rheticus was interested enough in the content to pay a personal visit in the spring of 1539 to Frauenberg, where Copernicus was a canon in the cathedral chapter.48 Rheticus later reflected on the inspiration for his journey:
I heard of the fame of Master Nicholas Copernicus in the northern lands, and although the University of Wittenberg had made me a public professor in those arts, nonetheless, I did not think that I should become content until I learned something more through the instruction of that man. And I also say that I regret neither the financial expenses nor the long journey nor the remaining hardships.49
Although there was already an awareness of the Copernican heliocentric theory in Wittenberg, the visit of Rheticus went unimpeded. Rheticus became the first major disciple of Copernicus and in 1540 took the initiative to make public a preliminary report on the Copernican system in the Narratio Prima.50 In the autumn of 1541, a year and a half after his original departure, Rheticus returned to Wittenberg where his new-found allegiance to Copernicus was undoubtedly known from the Narratio Prima:
I sincerely cherish Ptolemy and his followers equally with my teacher, since I have ever in mind and memory that sacred precept of Aristotle: "We must esteem both parties but follow the more accurate." This is so perhaps partly because I am persuaded that now at last I have a more accurate understanding of that delightful maxim which on account of its weightiness and truth is attributed to Plato: "God ever geometrizes"; but partly because in my teacher’s revival of astronomy I see, as the saying is, with both eyes and as though a fog had been lifted and the sky were now clear, the force of that wise statement of Socrates in Phaedrus: "If I think any other man is able to see things that can be naturally collected into one and divided into many, him I will follow after and walk in his footsteps as if he were a god."51
If the conversion of Rheticus to Copernicanism had been unacceptable to Melanchthon, it is doubtful [i.e. catch-word for speculation] that the former’s professorship would have been restored. [There is a breathlessness about this narrative that wants the reader to follow in its footsteps and not be “left behind”.] In fact, his faculty position was left open for Rheticus for the entire length of his absence. Indeed, he not only resumed his regular faculty responsibilities but was almost immediately made dean of the faculty of arts. Following his return to Wittenberg, Rheticus made repeated journeys to Nuremberg to supervise the publication of De Revolutionibus, which he had persuaded Copernicus to publish. Commenting later on his visit to Copernicus and the role which he filled in prodding his teacher along, Rheticus remarked, "Yet, it seems to me there came a great reward for these troubles, namely, that I, a rather daring young man, compelled this venerable man to share his ideas sooner in this discipline with the whole world."52 Copernicus commissioned Rheticus with the responsibility of overseeing the publication, and, in order to enable him to fulfill this task, Melanchthon arranged a leave of absence with full salary. Melanchthon also provided letters of recommendation on behalf of Rheticus to his friends in Nuremburg. Writing to Veit Dietrich in May of 1542, Melanchthon called Rheticus "a man who is learned and capable of teaching this most pleasing knowledge of the movements of heavenly bodies."53 [Oops, this statement – “movements of heavenly bodies”  –seems to be overlooked by author Ferry that it sounds like it refutes his own point.And to Erasmus Ebner, in a letter written in July of that same year, Melanchthon stated that Rheticus was "born to search out learning."54
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The fact that Rheticus took the work of publishing De Revolutionibus to Nuremberg does not indicate that he faced stricter censorship in Wittenberg , nor does it mark the beginning of a separation from those local connections [On both points, is it not an argument from silence?. The fact is that Rheticus had a shorter version of the Narratio Prima published previously in Wittenberg by Hans Lufft, the printer of Luther’s German Bible and, although he did leave the University of Wittenberg for a post at Leipzig, he did not depart under pressure because of his views. Leopold Prowe, a nineteenth-century biographer of Nicholas Copernicus, promised to write an additional volume in which he would provide evidence that Rheticus was obliged to abide by the Ptolemaic astronomy in his teaching in Wittenberg and that he subsequently removed himself thence to escape the conflict between obligation and conviction.55 [Credit Ferry for at least publicizing this potentially damaging info – I was unaware of Prowe’s promise.] Prowe, however, never wrote the promised volume, and the evidence that Rheticus was restrained from teaching tenets of Copernicanism [How conveniently Ferry slips in the term “Copernicanism” instead of Copernican Theory!] has not been brought forward.   Indeed, by the time of the astronomer’s move the University of Leipzig had also become solidly Lutheran, and from all the subsequent correspondence it is evident that Melanchthon missed Rheticus and held him in high regard.56 The relationship between Melanchthon and Rheticus may not have been one of complete agreement, [Oh? Ferry has just painted a picture of bliss, yet now admits this?] but the university rector respected his colleague and in many way and on various occasions supported his effort to make the views of Copernicus more widely known. Far from obstructing the progress of Copernican teaching, the University of Wittenberg helped facilitate the spread of his work by its steady support for Rheticus. [But see this blog post for a refutation of this.]
The theories of Copernicus [“Theories”? Don’t you mean to say “Copernicanism”?] did not fade into obscurity at the University of Wittenberg after the move of Rheticus to Leipzig. Erasmus Reinhold, who lectured on higher mathematics (which included astronomy), became interested in Copernicus and convinced by many aspects of his theory. Rheticus had acquainted him with Copernicus and, like Melanchthon, Reinhold was especially intrigued by his lunar theory. [Wow! Ferry allows himself to say “theory” 3 times in this paragraph.] Reinhold wrote:
I know of a recent author who is exceptionally skillful. He has raised a lively expectancy in everybody. One hopes that he will restore astronomy. He is just about to publish his
work. In the explanation of the phases of the moon he abandons the form that was adopted by Ptolemy. He assigns an epicycle to the moon. . . 57
Reinhold spoke with praise of Copernicus, "whose divine intellect all posterity will have good reason to admire," and gave thanks that "God in His goodness kindled a great light in him so that he discovered and explained a host of things which, until our day, had not been known or [were] veiled in darkness."58 Reinhold proceeded to provide the Tabulae Prutenicae, tables for the working astronomer based upon the planetary motions set forth in De Revolutionibus. He continued to speak admiringly of the Copernican writing throughout his own publication.59 It must be admitted [Really? Can’t it be assumed that Reinhold held to “Copernicanism”?] that Reinhold had little to say about the more revolutionary cosmological arguments of Copernicus; he maintained what has been called "the most perfect neutrality on the problem of geocentrism and heliocentrism."60 The Tabulae Prutenicae, however, demonstrate that Reinhold was not only interested in the details of Copernican theory, but was also willing to develop the material and make it more accessible. [This paragraph describes the actual situation perfectly, that (1) the Copernican Theory was superior in its predictive quality and (2) another noted teacher did not teach “heliocentrism”, even though Reinhold’s tables were hailed as a great breakthrough.]
All of this activity, of course, was accomplished under the academic supervision of Melanchthon and with his administrative approval. Reinhold’s work on the planetary tables received Melanchthon’s moral and financial support, and on his behalf Melanchthon also wrote to Duke Albrecht of Prussia.61 As was true with Rheticus, there is no evidence to suggest any interference with Reinhold’s teaching activities at Wittenberg. [Why make this statement?  Why interfere with tables that gave superior predictive results?] In 1547 he was named dean of the faculty of arts, and from 1549-1550 he was the rector of the university. In 1553 he left Wittenberg on account of an outbreak of the plague, and soon afterward he died in his native city of Saalfeld. His appreciation of Copernicus, while perhaps not all-encompassing, never proved to be an impediment to Reinhold’s career. Indeed, the publication of the Tabulae Prutenicae was his finest and most enduring achievement and showed that the teachings of Copernicus could be embraced [Now Ferry leaves out the word “Theory”, leaving the reader to think “Copernicanism” was “embraced…without fear of censorship”.] at the University of Wittenberg without fear of censorship. Once again the University of Wittenberg, through one of its faculty members, played a role in the advance of Copernican astronomy.
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A foundation was laid for the reception of Copernicus by Martin Luther, the name most synonymous with the German Reformation, and by Philip Melanchthon, the Praeceptor Germaniae, together with others on the faculty of the University of Wittenberg. [Here is certainly a proper fitting example of "The spirit of triumphalism in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod"! This whole paragraph is not about the issue of "Copernicanism"! ... though it is interesting to learn of all the Lutheran institutions that sprung up from the Reformation.] It was on this foundation that the academicians at various other institutions gradually built. Indeed, Wittenberg became the prototype of an overall program of educational reform followed by a number of universities beginning with the organization of the University of Marburg in 1527. Philip of Hesse persuaded Melanchthon to fill a key role in Marburg’s establishment, the first of many opportunities he had to influence the direction of university education outside of Wittenberg by helping to write or reformulate existing university statutes. Basel was reformed in 1532, and in 1536 Melanchthon introduced new measures at Tubingen. In 1539 reform at the University of Leipzig, the bastion of Luther’s adversary Duke George of Saxony until the principality turned evangelical, was also begun. The new measures were implemented by the time Rheticus arrived in 1543. Also in 1539 the Wittenberg model was adopted at Greifswald and Copenhagen, and Frankfurt-on-the-Oder followed suit in 1540. Duke Albrecht of Prussia founded the University of Koenigsberg in 1544 as a "purely Lutheran place of learning," while Jena was established in 1558 in order to provide an orthodox Lutheran university. Melanchthon supervised the reorganization of the University of Heidelberg in 1557 and 1558. The spirit of his reforming efforts continued after Melanchthon's death in 1560 with the reorganization of the University of Rostock in 1564 and the founding of the Lutheran University of Helmstedt in 1575.62
The impact of Melanchthon’s reforming energies specifically upon the field of astronomy was profound. The emphasis upon mathematics in the curricular program at Wittenberg was instilled in other places, and the measured reception of Copernicus [Measured? Why measured? This term hides within itself the reality that the true Lutheran Church NEVER accepted the Copernican Theory as objective fact!] was not unknown abroad. Lucas Valentin Otho, who completed the trigonometrical tables of the aging Rheticus, praised Wittenberg as a place where mathematical studies were flourishing and added that “there were evidences of Ptolemy, likewise evidences of Copernicus.”63 A large number of students and former professors left Wittenberg for other universities to assume positions that involved the teaching of astronomy. Undoubtedly, many of these took with them the
elements of both Ptolemaic and Copernican thinking which they had encountered in Wittenberg—studying under Melanchthon, Reinhold, Rheticus, and Peucer—and incorporated them into their classrooms through texts and lectures. At Leipzig were Melanchthon's close friend and biographer Camerarius and the astronomer Johannes Homelius. Homelius was a former student of Rheticus at Wittenberg and was later joined by him on the Leipzig faculty. He also became one of Tycho Brahe’s first instructors in astronomy. [Tycho Brahe, an astronomer overshadowed by Copernican Theory, did not accept Copernicanism.] The imprint of Wittenberg through the migration of faculty and students to other universities (German and Scandinavian) can also be traced to Tubingen, Koenigsberg, Heidelberg, Neustadt, Jena, Altdorf, and Copenhagen.64 Educational reform at the level of the German gymnasium was also the object of Melanchthon’s urgent attention, and former students often occupied faculty positions in these schools as well.
Copernican astronomy gained support in other parts of Lutheran Germany without direct influence immediately traceable to the University of Wittenberg. An example of one who championed the teaching of Copernicus elsewhere was Michael Maestlin at Tubingen. For a time Maestlin served as a Lutheran pastor in Württemberg prior to becoming professor of mathematics first at Heidelberg and then at Tubingen. [A switch from being a pastor to a mathematician does not recommend Maestlin. in the field of theology! ] Maestlin, along with Tycho Brahe and Peucer’s former student, Johannes Praetorius of the University of Altdorf, were among the first Lutherans to take the entire Copernican cosmological system seriously.65 Under Maestlin’s most famous pupil, Johannes Kepler, the transition to a fuller engagement with Copernican theory was virtually completed. [With Kepler’s name now attached, Ferry slips in the term “theory” again] Luther provided a framework in which astronomy could be studied as a discipline distinct from theology, and Melanchthon inspired a pattern of limited acceptance of Copernican teaching. [Limited? This is like Ferry’s use of “measured” above – see comment there.] It was left to the next generation to build upon this foundation and consider in greater detail the broader implications of what Copernicus maintained.
Of course, [Of course?  Why “of course”?] the debate between the church and science over matters of astronomy was by no means complete. [Maybe Ferry wants it to be “complete” now with his scholarly essay?] The famous struggle between Galileo and the Roman Catholic Church in the seventeenth century is evidence enough that issues such as these were not settled easily.66 [This is a red herring” notice that suggests the Lutherans who held firm to the Scriptures are the same as that of the Papal party.] The same also held true for Lutheran Germany in the late
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sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. By the turn of the century there were a host of men unabashedly teaching the Copernican system in German universities, and there were no doubt instances in which this development did not please their theological counterparts.67 [Oh? Why not? I thought by Ferry's narrative that it was all over and settled by Luther!] From Luther on, however, there were no measures enacted at Lutheran universities designed to suppress the teaching of Copernicus. Indulgence, obviously, is not the same thing as endorsement or approval [obviously? I thought it was "obvious" that it WAS endorsement and/or approval! Why question something that Ferry wants to appear settled?]; yet, while the university did not take steps to replace Ptolemaic constructions [Ferry wants to use his “straw man” of Ptolemaic astronomy to avoid the Scriptural issue] with Copernican ones, the two approaches enjoyed a relatively peaceful coexistence during the era of the Reformation. Melanchthon, an ardent Aristotelian, created an environment in which his colleagues who were more inclined toward Copernicus could work comfortably and advance in their careers. Luther, the driving force behind the Reformation and the most prominent figure on the entire faculty of Wittenberg […and taught the also the truth of the natural history of the Biblical account of Genesis and Joshua 10:13], had relatively little complaint and exerted no formal opposition. [Luther dealt with the weak in faith. Elector Frederick the Wise had thousands of relics but Luther overlooked these in his correspondence with him. See blog review of the book Brand Luther.]
Science and religion are not completely compatible. [Where they are incompatibile is only true for science falsely so-called”: “O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called”. 1 Tim 6:20  This Bible verse seems far removed from our author.] The former holds an unwavering devotion to reason, while the latter lays claim to that which transcends reason and is accessible only through faith. There have been and continue to be examples where the rational and the suprarational have come into conflict, highlighting differences in their respective methods and purposes. The emergence of the Reformation and the scientific revolution in early modern Europe has made their relationship a topic of considerable inquiry. The period provides ample evidence of their mutual incompatibilities, but the example of Lutheran Wittenberg and Copernican astronomy suggests that the relationship is not easily defined. [But 1 Tim. 6:20 “suggests” otherwise.] Views that conflicted with traditional assumptions [Traditional? Is that how our author defines the faith of Christians, a faith in the truth and infallibility of the Bible? Does he calls his faith “Lutheran tradition”?] were approached with hesitation, not merely because science was relegated to an inferior status by the religious community, but because familiar explanations were generally considered satisfactory. New conclusions, however, were not simply dismissed or disregarded but evaluated and eventually improved. The environment existing at universities such as Wittenberg proved to be more conducive than obstructive to ideas such as those coming from Copernicus. The transition was accomplished gradually, but the religiously motivated University of Wittenberg did more to enhance than impede the progress of the new scientific astronomy. [This statement by author Ferry may be truth that the Reformation actually helped true science, but it is a misuse of this to turn it into a defense of “science falsely so-called”— Make no mistake, author Ferry wants to be taken not on scientific grounds, but theological grounds. He writes for a theological journal. He now heads a “Lutheran” university. But he voices no Scriptural grounds to reject Copernicanism … like Luther and Melanchthon do.]
1.        ^ See Lewis W. Spitz, "The Importance of the Reformation for the Universities: Culture and Confessions in the Critical Years," in Rebirth, Reform and Resilience: Universities in Transition, 1300-1700, ed. James M. Kittelson and Pamela J. Transue (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1984), pp. 42-67.
2.        ^ Alphonse de Chandolle, Histoire des Sciences et des Savants (Paris: 1873).
3.        ^ Andrew Dickson White, "A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology," in Christendom, 2 vols. (London: Arco Publishers, 1955).
4.        ^ The idea that the "Wittenberg Interpretation" represented a transitional phase is discussed in Robert S. Westman, "The Melanchthon Circle, Rheticus, and the Wittenberg Interpretation of the Copernican Theory," Isis 66 (1975), pp. 165-193.
5.        ^ Luther's Works: American Edition [henceforth cited as LW], ed. Jaraslav [sic] Pelikan and Helmut T. Lehmann (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1955-1986), 55 vols., 44, p. 200.
6.        ^ See James M. Kittelson, "Luther’s Impact on the Universities and the Reverse," Concordia Theological Quarterly, 48 (1984), pp. 23-38.
7.        ^ Heinrich Bornkamm, Luther’s World of Thought, trans. Martin H. Bertram (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1983), p. 182.
8.        ^ LW, 54, pp. 358-359.
9.        ^ D. Martin Luthers Werke: Tischreden (henceforth abbreviated TR), 6 vols. (Weimar: Hermann Böhlau, 1912-1921, in association with the "Weimar Ausgabe" [hence cited as WA], i.e., D. Martin Luthers Werke: Kritische Gesammtausgabe [Weimar: Hermann Böhlau und Nachfolger, 1883-]), 1, no. 855. [This reference is also in the St. Louis Edition, vol. 22, page/column 1546.]
10.        ^ John Dillenberger, Protestant Thought and Natural Science: A Historical Interpretation (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1960), p. 38.
11.        ^ See Gary B. Deason, "Reformation Theology and the Mechanis-
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tic Conception of Nature," in God and Nature: Historical Essays on the Encounter between Christianity and Science, ed. David C. Lindberg and Ronald L. Numbers (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986), pp. 175-178.
12.        ^ LW, 16, p. 326.
13.        ^ Werner Elert, The Structure of Lutheranism, trans. Walter A. Hansen (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1962), p. 417.
14.        ^ See LW, 46, p. 252.
15.        ^ LW, 15, p. 9.
16.        ^ TR, 1:17.
17.        ^ TR, 4:4705.
18.        ^ TR, 2:2730a.
19.        ^ LW, 54, pp. 219-220.
20.        ^ LW, 1, p. 45.
21.        ^ Ibid., p. 45.
22.        ^ Elert, The Structure of Lutheranismpp. 423-424.
23.        ^ See Dillenberger, Protestant Thought and Natural Science, p. 37.
25.        ^ See Gerrish, "Reformation and the Rise of Science," pp. 249, 253.
26.        ^ LW, 38, pp. 239-242.
27.        ^ See Gerrish, "Reformation and the Rise of Science," pp. 251-254.
28.        ^ For a discussion of humanism and the early history of the University of Wittenberg, see Robert Rosin, "The Reformation, Humanism, and Education,"Concordia Journal, 16 (1990), pp. 301-318.
29.        ^ See Robert S. Westman, "The Copernicans and the Churches," in God and Nature: Historical Essays on the Encounter between
Christianity and Science, ed. David C. Lindberg and Ronald L. Numbers (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986), p. 82.
30.        ^ Quoted in Westman, "The Melanchthon Circle," p. 170.
31.        ^ See Elert, The Structure of Lutheranismp. 425.
32.        ^ Quoted in Westman, "The Melanchthon Circle," p. 172.
33.        ^ The designation "Melanchthon Circle," used by Westman and others, is drawn from Lynn Thorndike, A History of Magic and Experimental Science, 5 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1941), pp.378-405.
34.        ^ Westman, "The Melanchthon Circle," pp. 167-168.
35.        ^ Ibid., p. 168.
36.        ^ See Elert, The Structure of Lutheranism, p. 418.
37.        ^ Ibid., p. 418.
38.        ^ The standard critical edition of Melanchthon’s works is the Corpus Reformatorum [henceforth cited as C/?], ed. C. G. Bretschneider (New York and London: Johnson Reprint Corporation, 1963 ff.). Here see CR, 13, p. 216.
39.        ^ See Kittleson, "Luther’s Impact on the Universities," p. 25; see also Spitz, "The Importance of the Reformation for the Universities," p. 54.
40.        ^ CR, 4, p. 679.
41.        ^ CR, 13, pp. 181-411.
42.        ^ Ibid., p. 217.
43.        ^ Ibid., p. 219.
44.        ^ Ibid., p. 244.
45.        ^ Ibid., p. 244.
46.        ^ CR, 11, p. 839.
47.        ^ See Westman, "The Melanchthon Circle," p. 173.
48.        ^ For a translation of the Commentariolus see Edward Rosen, Three Copernican Treatises (New York: Dover Publications, 1959), pp. 57-90.
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49.        ^ Quoted in Westman, "The Melanchthon Circle,” p. 183.
50.        ^ For a translation of the Narratio Prima see Edward Rosen, Three Copernican Treatises (New York: Dover Publications, 1959), pp. 109-1%.
51.        ^ Ibid., pp. 167-168.
52.        ^ Quoted in Westman, "The Melanchthon Circle," p. 183.
53.        ^ CR, 4, p. 810.
54.        ^ Ibid., p. 839.
56.        ^ See CR, 7, p. 601.
57.        ^ Quoted in Westman, "The Melanchthon Circle," p. 175.
58.        ^ Ibid., p. 175.
59.        ^ Erasmus Reinhold, Prutenicae Tabulae Coelestium Motuum, (Tübingen, 1551).
60.        ^ A quotation of Aleksander Birkenmajer in Westman, "The Melanchthon Circle,” p. 177, note 48.
61.        ^ CR, 5, p. 444.
62.        ^ For an account of Melanchthon’s role in the shaping of these universities see Spitz, "The Importance of the Reformation for the Universities," pp. 54-56.
63.        ^ Quoted in Elert, The Structure of Lutheranism, p. 426.
64.        ^ See Westman, "The Melanchthon Circle,” p. 171.
65.        ^ Ibid., p. 181.
66.        ^ See Jerome J. Langford, Galileo, Science, and the Church (Ann Arbor University of Michigan Press, 1966).

67.        ^ See Elert, The Structure of Lutheranism, p. 427.


  1. In its 2015 LCMS document, In Christ all Things Hold Together: The Intersection of Science and Christian Theology, the CTCR and unnamed scientific consultants state:

    "A famous example of this is the alleged contradiction between modern science and Joshua 10:12–13, which describes a day when the sun stood still. If we suppose this text to be expressing a scientific theory in astronomy, it is easy to suppose that Scripture is committed to the geocentric paradigm, according to which the sun is one of many planets going round a stationary Earth. So the sun 'standing still' means that it became still like the Earth. The problem is that we now have excellent reason to reject the geocentric paradigm in favor of a heliocentric one, in which the Earth is one of many planets going around the Sun. Although Scripture is our supreme standard, it would be improperly dogmatic to insist that human science is simply wrong before considering whether our interpretation of Scripture was required by the text. The Bible is a collection of inspired, infallible writings, yet God inspires human writers to convey His message in humanly comprehensible terms. And throughout the Scripture we see God communicating to us in the terms of common-sense appearances." [p. 20]

    "For centuries, nothing seemed more obvious than that the Earth is stationary, that weight and time are constants, that light travels in straight lines, and that nature makes no jumps; yet the advances of Copernicus, Newton, Einstein and quantum theory have shown that every one of these ideas is mistaken." [p. 23]

    1. "Carl Vehse"
      I am sorry to have taken so long to get your comments published as they are quite useful additions to the documentation. For my part, I can hardly read through the above statement without turning my eyes away, it is so wretched. I won't repeat the words I used in a title of a blog from 2011, but they apply perfectly.

  2. Despite claims (see Concordia Journal, Summer 2017, pages 40 and 83) that Copernican heliocentrism was taught at the University of Wittenberg, the Copernicanism taught by Erasmus Reinhold at Wittenberg after Rheticus left in 1542, was taught only as a convenient mathematical tool for astronomical calculations, not as a heliocentric reality that the earth revolves on its axis and orbits, along with other planets, around a fixed sun.

    This “Wittenberg interpretation” of Copernicanism is discussed in Robert Westman’s “The Melanchthon Circle, Rheticus, and the Wittenberg Interpretation of the Copernican Theory” (Isis, Vol. 66, No. 2, Jun., 1975, pp. 164-193). Westman states (pp. 189-190):

    “While there is of course no way to know what might have happened had Rheticus stayed longer [at Wittenberg], it is relevant to note that such a group of followers did not form about him either in Leipzig or in Cracow; nor did either the Narratio prima or De revolutionibus itself have the effect of producing Rheticus-like conversions among those who remained at Wittenberg in the 1540s, 1550s, and 1560s. Although several students were present at Rheticus’ lectures in 1541, after his return from Frombork and before his departure for Leipzig, none of these (Burmeister lists among them Peucer, Schreiber, Stoius, Homelius, Heller, Lauterwalt, Staphylus, and Acontius) were to adopt a strong realist interpretation of the Copernican theory.”

    1. I especially appreciate your documentation on Reinhold as I skipped over commenting on him.
      Robert Westman seems more of a friend to Lutheranism than today's theologians. Even he did a wonderful service by translating Copernicus's epitaph, but where has today's LC-MS even mentioned the beauty of THAT epitaph? They are too busy trying to accommodate the Bible to "Science"...


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